Lohbado was sent to the office of Headmaster Bates after stealing a slice of Lori’s cherry-cream pie. Lohbado was fourteen-years old at the time. Master Bates trembled with rage as Lori led the boy by the ear into the office. He pulled out a twelve-inch wooden ruler and spanked the boy’s hand until it turned red.
This was back in 1968, when teachers and principals were allowed to strap students, a black piece of leather or a ruler. Whack a kid several times on each hand. Lohbado first received the strap for choking Jack Orfski’s pet monkey in the coatroom. The second time it was for stealing a pair of pink mittens knitted by Kitty’s Bunston’s grandmother in the Golden Dale Nursing Home on Side Street.
Lohbado thought of the ruler and the strap, years later, after telling the neighbor upstairs to shut up. Every night the guy, about twenty-five, would drop something really loud, two or three times on the floor, at 3 AM. It really startled Lohbado. The first time, he thought maybe the building was about to collapse. It happened again, the next night. The third night, Lohbado got so angry, he shouted at the man to shut up. The next night, he banged on the wall. It drove him crazy to be awakened by loud banging in the night. He had a hard time falling back to sleep afterwards. He complained to the caretaker, who said he would inform the landlord.
It was really getting to Lohbado. He left work early the next day. He needed to cool down. He didn’t like getting angry. He hated to think what he might do to the guy, if the guy didn’t stop. Lohbado knew it was a good idea to head for the hills. Being in nature calmed his nerves. He drove into the forest and up a steep logging road to the top of an escarpment. He got out and gazed over the water. Spectacular clouds decorated the sky. He contemplated a hole in the cloud, where the evening sun broke through.
He peered into the luminous hole. Rays of sun poured out the triangle until he could see a blazing, golden-white letter A, for alphabet. Lohbado never left home without a copy of Abel Crane’s Abecedaire, a set of twenty-six spiritual exercises to aid digestion.
His sky gazing came to an end with a thundering and breaking of branches. He turned his head to see a black bear crash through the undergrowth and into the clearing. The bear stopped about ten paces from Lohbado. Whoof! The bear breathed hard. It ran about three paces and stopped. Lohbado froze in terror, holding his breath and began softly humming and gazing at the ground to the right of the bear. It stood up on hind legs and swayed back and forth. Lohbado could already feel, vividly in imagination, the sensation of being torn apart and bathed in blood. A few seconds took eternity to go by. Lohbado glanced towards the bear. He avoided eye contact, since eye contact was considered a challenge to fight. The bear huffed and gazed out at the lake. Lohbado turned to see what the bear was looking at, but saw nothing other than sky and water. He looked at the bear looking at water and sky and then looked at water and sky. He suddenly felt at peace with the bear. The bear meant him no harm. They stood there together and watched the spectacular effect of evening sun and clouds.
Lohbado felt a deep connection with the granite under his feet and with the power of the forest. Aggression dissolved as he continued to gaze across the lake, towards the horizon and at the clouds breaking up in the purple, crimson and golden light. The bear leaned against Lohbado’s arm. Stiff bristling fur of the bear pressed against the sleeve of his fleece jacket. The bear looked Lohbado in the eye and smiled. Lohbado slowly reached out his hand. The bear licked his hand. Lohbado stroked the bear behind the ear. The bear nodded and rocked its head, as if to make it clear that he agreed with Lohbado’s friendly gesture. The bear stood up again, stepped towards Lohbado and gave Lohbado a bear hug.
Lohbado trembled and wept with unbearable sweetness of being. To be taken to the bosom of a mighty creature of the forest filled him with great joy. The hug lasted about five seconds, until the bear dropped down on all fours.
As quickly as good feeling welled up in him, it turned to dread and shame. Lohbado noticed fleas and lice on the side of the bear’s neck. His body itched from head to food as he imagined ticks, lice or parasitic worms crawling over his skin and penetrating stomach and intestines. A cold shiver ran up his spine. He felt dizzy and could see stars. A haze spread across the horizon and the treetops began rocking wildly. The bear went blurry and shrank into the gray, almost white shape of a goat, standing on hind legs, with a human face. The goat grinned and galloped around Lohbado three times.
The goat leered through bloodshot eyes. Smoke curled out of the goat’s nostrils in accusation. Lohbado felt sorry about the foolish things he’d done over the years. The goat laughed as Lohbado hung his head and cried. A forked tongue flickered in and out of the goat’s mouth.
“I’d offer to buy your soul,” said the Devil, “But I’m not sure it’s worth the price.”
“What’s wrong with me?” cried Lohbado.
“I don’t know. You tell me,” replied the goat demon, shaking with laughter.
The goat hopped towards the edge of the cliff and started climbing down the steep slope. Goat hoofs had strong foothold in narrow ridges of near vertical rock. Lohbado watched the agile goat hop down the cliff and to the edge of the lake. The goat burst into a ball of fire and then disappeared.
Lohbado threw himself down on the rocky ground. Great sorrow welled up in his heart. His body ached with sadness and regret. He wished he could go back and make amends, start all over again and do it right. His foolish attitude and lack of attention to details sank him up to the neck in confusion. Lohbado didn’t want evil anymore. He wanted peace and love.
Peace and love arrived in an old white Cadillac, a young man at the wheel, his sweetheart leaning against him. They’d bounced along the logging road and made it up the hill in order to play cards and admire the sunset. The man, about twenty-one, got out and ran over to Lohbado, who looked more dead than alive.
“Are you all right?” shouted the young man.
The young woman, long straight black hair, tight jeans and a pullover watched from a distance.
“Maybe he’s a zombie,” she suggested, “We should get out of here.”
“If he tries anything, I’ll shoot him in the head.”
Lohbado rolled over, flailed about with his arms and moaned as he struggled to sit up. The young man grabbed one of Lohbado’s hands and helped him to his feet.
“You look like you got a problem,” said the young man, looking at Lohbado’s pale face and messy black fleece jacket and baggy brown trousers.
“Forgive me,” said Lohbado.
“Did you kill somebody?”
“No, but I messed around with the alphabet in a way it wasn’t intended to be used. If people got hold of what I wrote, it could mess them up. My letter E offended Capital Letter P.”
“You look pretty messed up right now.”
“I need C for coffee and then I’ll be all right,” said Lohbado, “There’s still some left in T truck.”
Lohbado managed to steady himself, after a wave of dizziness passed through him again. He gazed at the reflection of the evening sun on the hood of his blue pickup truck and guided himself towards it. He swung open the door and grabbed a huge plastic mug of coffee. The young man and woman listened as he took three gulps of lukewarm black coffee.
“I’ll be fine now.”
“Yeah. Pee was sure pissed off. She’ll get over it. And so will the Chief Poopotski. He raised a stink when I poked him in the eye.”